10 Most Beautiful Places To Visit In Kamakura

June 13, 2018

Have you ever been to Kamakura?  Kamakura was once a political capital along with Kyoto and Nara. It is an ancient city in Kanagawa Prefecture that was originally a small fishing village. This village was selected to be the capital of Japan by the Minamoto Shogunate who were chief military commanders of feudal Japan. 

Do you know why this ancient village was selected by the shogunate to be the capital of Japan?  

Kamakura is mountainous and surrounded by the ocean. These geographical features of Kamakura were a natural fortress. So, it was the best spot to establish the feudal government. These days the geographic location has helped preserve the rich history and pureness of the town. 

It was the capital city of Japan throughout the Kamakura Period (1192-1333).  During this time period, trade with the Chinese led to the import of Chinese culture which was blended with the Japanese spirit of warriors and aristocratic culture. This bend of cultures greatly influenced Japanese society and can clearly be seen in many historical spots in Kamakura and around Japan.  

Nowadays,  Kamakura is a popular tourist destination and its beaches attract large crowds in the summer who enjoy sunbathing, swimming, and surfing. In July and August, there are small huts along Yuigahama and Zaimokuza beach that sell food and drinks. Kamakura is a lovely place to visit any time of year. That said, there are times of the year when the temples and shrines are especially gorgeous. The hydrangea season is one of those times! 

In this guide, we made a list of the most beautiful spots in Kamakura and the best spots to see the hydrangeas. We’ve created a Kamakura map to help you get around.

So, get your walking shoes and camera ready, it’s time to explore this fascinating city!


1. Meigetsu-in

Meigetsu-in Temple opened in 1383 and built by Noritaka Uesugi. It was originally part of larger temple complex known as Zenkoji that was founded in 1160.  During anti-Buddhist movements of the Meiji period, most of the buildings at Zenkoji were torn down.  Meigetsu-in was the only one to remain and became an individual temple. Meigetsu-in is often referred to as the Ajisaidera “Hydrangea Temple” because of its many blue hydrangeas that bloom there in June.

Meigetsu means "full moon" and the temple is known for its tea room with this round window. The name of the temple which means “bright moon” has a symbolic connection to the moon. In ancient times in Japan, it was believed that rabbits lived on the moon. Since there is this connection between the moon and rabbits, there are many rabbit ornaments around the temple. General admission in 300 yen (500 yen in June). Hours: 9:00 to 16:00 (8:30 to 17:00 in June)

For access: take the train to Kita-Kamakura Station. It’s about a 10-minute walk from the station. 


2. Engaku-ji

Engaku-ji is the head temple of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism in Kamakura. The temple was founded in 1282 by the high ranking priest, Mugaku Sogen, also known as Bukko Kokushi who came from China after being invited to Japan by Hojo Tokimune of the Kamakura Shogunate. Hojo Tokimune was a regular visitor of this temple. Engaku-ji is a good spot to see the many colorful hydrangeas that bloom there in June. General admission in 300 yen. Hours: 8:00 to 16:30 (8:00 to 6:00 - December to February)

For access: take the train to Kita-Kamakura Station. It’s about a 1-minute walk from the station.


3. Tōkei-ji

Tōkei-ji Temple dates back to 1285. It was founded by the wife of Hojo Tokimune after he died at a young age. Until mid 1800s, the temple was a shelter for women who were abused by their husbands and were seeking divorce. The temple is a small branch of the Engakuji school of Zen Buddhism. It’s a good spot to see the hydrangeas in June. General admission in 200 yen. Hours: 8:30 to 16:30 (8:00 to 16:00 - October to March)

For access: take the train to Kita-Kamakura Station. It’s about a 5-minute walk from the station.

 

4. Jōchi-ji

Jōchi-ji temple in North Kamakura is a branch of the Engaku-ji school of Zen Buddhism. Jōchi-ji was founded in 1283 by members of the ruling Hojo family. The temple was originally a larger complex with many buildings but now is smaller scale. The pathway leading up to the main gate is a pleasant walk. The road on the left-side next to Jōchi-ji goes up to the Daibutsu Hiking Trail. General admission in 200 yen. Hours: 9:00 to 16:30

For access: take the train to Kita-Kamakura Station. It’s about a 10-minute walk from the station.


5. Kenchō-ji

Kenchō-ji was the first Zen temple to be established in Kamakura and is the oldest Zen training monastery in Japan. It was completed in 1253 during the Kenchō era which is how it got its name. The temple was founded by Rankei Doryū, a Chinese Zen master. After you pass through the “Sanmon” main gate, there is temple bell on the right side that is designated as a National Treasure. We recommend the Sanpeki-ike landscape garden behind the “ Hojo” main hall. It is interestingly shaped in the Chinese character which means "heart and mind". It was designed by Daikaku Zenji, also known as Rankei Doryu and Lan-hsi Tao-lung. If you walk towards the hills behind the main hall for 15-20 minutes and go up the steps, you will come to the Hansobo. It is a shrine that protects Kenchōji. On a clear day. a view of Mt. Fuji can be seen from the Hansobo. The Tenen Hiking Trail connects from this location. General admission to the temple is 500 yen. Hours: 8:30 to 16:30

For access: take the train to Kamakura Station or Kita-Kamakura Station.   Kenchōji is a 15-20 minute walk from the station.


6. Tsurugaoka Hachimangu

Tsurugaoka Hachimangu is a popular tourist attraction in Kamakura. It was founded by Minamoto Yoriyoshi in 1063 and moved to the current location in 1180. The shrine is dedicated to the Hachiman god of the Minamoto family. The shrine has two ponds, the Heike pond to the left of the main entrance Torii gate and the Genji-ike pond to the right of the gate. They are named after the Heike and Genji clans which represent the rise and fall of these two great shogunates.  There are several huge Torii gates that go along the “Dankazura” pedestrian path in the center of Wakamiya Oji Street. It’s especially nice to walk along this path towards the shrine during the early evening. Admission is free. 

For access: take the train to Kamakura Station. It’s about a 10-15 minute walk from the station.


7. Hōkoku-ji 

Hōkoku-ji is a Zen temple which belongs to the Kenchōji Temple of the Rinzai Sect. It was founded in 1334 and became the family temple of both the Ashikaga samurai clan and the Uesugi samurai clan. There is a moss stone garden with a comfortable Zen atmosphere. It is best known for the wonderful bamboo grove behind the temple's main hall. There are over 2000 bamboo stalks and a pathway through the grove leads to a teahouse. Green tea is available for purchase in the bamboo grove. General admission is 200 yen. Hours: 9:00 to 16:00

For access: take the train to Kamakura Station. Take the bus (23, 24 or 36) to the Jomyoji bus stop or you can walk. It’s about a 35-minute walk from the station. 

 

8. Hasedera

Hasedera was founded in 736 and is a temple of the Jōdo-shū sect of Buddhism. Not to be missed is the eleven-headed statue of Kanon that is over 9 meters tall. It is one of the largest wooden sculptures in Japan. Also, there is a small cave with statues that is illuminated by candles. The temple is famous for its hydrangeas. In early June, visitors can see many varieties of hydrangeas blooming along the "Prospect Path" which runs along a steep hill (see top page photo). General admission is 300 yen.  Hours: 8:00 to 17:30 (8:00 to 17:00 from October to February)

For access: take the Enoden train line to Hase Station. It’s about a 10-minute walk from the station.


9. Kōtoku-in

The Great Buddha of Kamakura was cast in 1252. It is a bronze statue of Amida Buddha who is known as the embodiment of enlightenment, compassion, and wisdom.  The statue is located on the grounds of  Kōtoku-in temple and is designated as a national treasure. It was originally inside a temple hall but after the hall was destroyed several times by earthquakes and tsunamis, the decision was made to keep the statue outside. General admission is 200 yen. Hours: 8:00 to 17:30 (8:00 - 17:00 from October to March)

For access: take the Enoden train line to Hase Station. It’s about a 10-minute walk from the station.


10. Gōryo Jinja

Gōryo Jinja is a small shrine that dates back to the Heian period (794 – 1185). The entrance to the shrine is located right in front of the Enoden Train tracks. In June many varieties of colorful hydrangeas can be seen along the tracks so it is a popular spot to take pictures of the Enoden train as it passes by the hydrangeas along the tracks. The shrine is dedicated to the warlord Kamakura Gongoro Kagemasa. Admission is free. Hours: Open 24 hours.

For access: take the Enoden train line to Hase Station. It’s about a 5-minute walk from the station.

We highly recommend a day trip to Kamakura or even staying there for 1-2  nights. There are many guest houses available in Kamakura and you can even rent a bicycle to get around the town. Kamakura is also a good way to experience ancient Japan if you don’t have the time or budget to go to Kyoto and Nara. 

If you are interested in hiking, there are some hiking trails in the area:

the Daibutsu Hiking Course - connects Jochiji Temple in Kita-Kamakura with the Great Buddha (Daibutsu) in the west of the city.

Tenen Hiking Course (see photo) - connects Kenchoji Temple in Kita-Kamakura with Zuisenji Temple in the east of the city.

Both trails take around 90 minutes to hike and there are nice views along the way. Autumn is one of the best times to go hiking on these courses. There are impressive views along the way. 

We hope you found this guide to be helpful and that you have a great time in Kamakura! 




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